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Today would have been my youngest brother’s birthday. James Edward Dahl, born January 24, 1958, the youngest of five children, died August 18, 2012. His creative brain was stopped by an bursting aneurysm which soon after stilled his beating heart. More than four years later, I don’t need pictures to remind me of his warm smile or the pain that he medicated through alcohol.

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I attended my first Al-anon meeting last week. I wish I had gone years ago. But I told myself that his alcoholism affected my co-dependent mom, not me. I lived too far away from his daily life. I thought I was not touched by this disease. However, as I tried to move forward after his death followed a year later by our mother’s death, I discovered many unresolved issues surrounding my relationship with my artistic, lonely, sharing but self-burdened younger brother.

At that Al-anon meeting, around the room I heard echoed my own thoughts and struggles. Why couldn’t  I fix him? How come I could not convince my mother of her co-dependency, as she gave him money and made excuses for him? During my visits to see him and mom, I’d ask, “Didn’t he love me enough to delay drinking until after the movie?”

I heard one admit that she was like the older brother who would not join his Father’s celebration at the return of the Prodigal Son in the story told by Jesus. In her words, I heard my brother’s accusation that I rode into town being the “Good Child” and leaving mom upset. When he blamed others and could say it aloud, he usually had been drinking and so my admission and apology could not be received, but I rarely heard his heart cries. I did not understand his inner pain or the hold that alcohol held over his life.

I was the self-righteous one with all the answers. Since his death, all I encounter is questions. If I couldn’t fix him, could I accept him for who he was? If I couldn’t understand his behavior, could I acknowledge his great love for his family, his friends, and his art? If he could not wait for that drink after a day of smiling at unreasonable customers, can I face the fact that I longed for him to be free, to be whole, and to receive the love that God and so many offered him? Can I see the log in my own eye in all those efforts to force our mother to see the speck in hers?

Today’s reading in Courage to Change, a book given to me at that first Al-anon meeting, I am encouraged to be myself, to own my own feelings of anger, embarrassment, resentment, or fear that one of my children may “catch this disease.” Today, I can choose to honor my brother’s struggles and his gifts. Today, I can embrace my own faults and contributions.

I can apply what William Shakespeare wrote, “This above all, to thine own self be true.”

– link to Al-anon Family Groups in USA, Canada & Bermuda: http://al-anon.org

–  The Biblical story of the prodigal son can be found in the book of Luke chapter 15  with a few other lost and found stories.

–  Jesus’ words on the log and the speck are in Matthew which is printed here.
Matthew 7:3-5 New Living Translation (NLT) from Bible Gateway.com

3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye[a] when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend,[b] ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.                       [a & b: in Greek = brother]

– humorous note on context of Shakespeare
quote from Hamlet: https://www.enotes.com/shakespeare-quotes/thine-own-self-true

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Safe stories are where we hide and rest. God stories stretch and challenge us.


My biggest problem in a small church setting is to clone creativity. Finding people to join me in discovering and telling the dangerous, life-changing stories of God is difficult, but things worth doing are worth the effort. I trust God will reveal the ones called by the Spirit.

Today's post is in response to a recently launched blog, “No More Safe Stories” that is designed for church creatives. I'm starting over in a new parish with little technology, so I won't be using videos for a while. I can still tell the stories. Journey Media offers support for creative types to challenge and encourage each other. After all, creative people always face the obstacle of “But we've never done it that way before.”

Pastor Hazel Behrens
Serving 3 churches in rural North Dakota

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http://www.arthousecoop.com/library/8819#page-slide_1

7 pregnancies, 6 live births.

Individual words given in a flash describe a point of my faith journey in relation to each child. This brief sketchbook was an outpouring of those words lived and interpreted over 20 years. My hope is to expand this work someday soon.

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Faith Academy Cheers Opponents Nov.2008

I am glad I could verify this story that I received in an email forward. I was disappointed that one of the links I tried in my search simply repeated the email with no outside verification. That is how lies get passed on as the truth. This story, I am glad to say could be verified by at least two reputable sources.

Cheering the other team doesn’t have to be left on the football field. We can pray for our opponent in a law suit so that if greed motivates them (or us) that God will work to reveal that. We can pray for the person who cuts in front of us on the highway, so that God can calm their hearts and slow down the frantic pace of their lives. Maybe we should add a prayer of hope that the method God uses to slow them down doesn’t involve an accident with innocent victims.

Cheering for the mother with two crying infants at the grocery store may involve a sympathetic smile or something as generous as leaving $20 with the clerk to help pay for her food. Cheering for the son-in-law who calls to complain about his wife could mean really listening, instead of immediately arguing that the precious daughter is prefect.

Loving our neighbor as ourselves is not an easy command to follow, but whenever Jesus instructs us to do something, I have found that God gives us the strength, resources, and wisdom to do it. The beginning is the decision to try. Then, comes the first step.

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